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Discussion Starter #1
While refueling in my wife's van, I was checking the oil and I happened to notice the oil cap was not there. As I was standing there wondering how this could happen, I noticed the cap was laying upside down just next to the radiator cap. We had the van serviced just over a month ago and nobody has looked at the engine since then, so it apparently had been like this since we had the van serviced over 1000 miles ago.

I realize this is not a good thing since it could allow dirt inside the engine via dirty dustly air. But it leaves me wondering just how bad this can be. The roads we drive in central Ohio are 100% paved and we have rain on occasions. So, I'd curious people's thoughts on this.

At a minimum, I will be going back to the dealer for what I hope is a complimentary oil change.
 

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Did you check the oil level? Was there any oil on the engine cover? I drove my V8 4runner around like this for a week after I did an oil change. Oil level was fine.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Good questions. I did not see oil anywhere around the cover. I check the oil level and it was fine. This situation just has me wondering what's the chance the engine life has been shortened due to dirty oil?
 

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you should be fine. I'm surprised you didn't have oil splatter on the underside of the hood and engine. With the hood closed, I don't think anything more than dirt and dust could have entered via the oil fill hole if that. An oil change would be cheap insurance along with providing peace of mind.
 

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This is why whenever the car goes in for service (which is rare considering that I do my DIY at home), I always open the hood to verify that everything is in order. This is because mechanics are human beings, they make mistake too.

Now, the other possibility is: the cap was re-installed but not tight enough, engine vibration works it loose. Just a thought.

And yes, change the oil because the road has salt and dirt. Have you ever peaked inside the engine compartment? There is always sand, dirt from the street.
 

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Change the oil and filter, and maybe the PCV valve. That should take care of it. Some dirt probably got into the engine, but the filter will catch it. I doubt there will be any long-term consequences.
 

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No major harm done. Like said, for the time the cap was missing, the crankcase was breathing unfiltered air, but it's not like you drive in the Sahara. I'd probably shorten your oil change interval by 1000mi, but I personally wouldn't worry about changing the engine oil ASAP.

Joel
 

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You will be fine as there is a positive pressure in the crankcase that usually pushes oil out everywhere and does not suck anything in, this leads me to suspect that is was loose and not off the whole time.

With the exception of low oil level or a mess there should be no worries regarding engine damage

Al
 

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You have nothing to worry about. Seriously, think about it: Even if you drove more than a month and 1000 miles, the entry point for pollutants and dirt and dust and grime is vanishingly small... and the pressure is going out, not going in to the crankcase. Don't sweat it.

But just to be on the safe side, consider driving it off a cliff and getting the insurance money for it. Since you're worried about it, and all. No sense worrying as much as you have...
 

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Discussion Starter #10
"vanishingly small"? Maybe the dip stick hole. But I'm talking about the oil fill hole that's about an inch or two in diameter. But I very much appreciate the comments about positive pressure. That's good to hear.

Also, regarding the chance the cap was on there and worked it's way loose. If that were the case, I would have found the cap somewhere below the oil fill hole. Where I found the cap was up higher sitting right next to the radiator cap. I'm confident it could only get there by somebody putting it there.

Again, thanks for all the comments. It has helped.
 

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You live in Columbus OH....Well, in my area Omaha NE, they spray salt and sand.
I just opened my hood, inside my engine compartment there are some sand particles laying around.
So I'd recommend an oil change.
An oil change is $20:
- Bosch filter $5
- Oil $2--->$3/qt (on sales for dino oil) x5 = max $15.

Max cost for parts = $20.

I wrote an easy DIY for oil change in the forum.
 

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... and the pressure is going out, not going in to the crankcase. Don't sweat it.
???

That's not correct.

With the throttle far open yes, but under most ALL driving conditions you have manifold vacuum. If you have vacuum the PCV valve will be sucking crankcase vapors out of the crankcase. If the oil fill cap is off, outside air will be drawn in through the fill hole instead of through the breather line that goes from the valve cover to the filtered side of the engine air filter housing. Your 'make-up' air needs to be filtered.

Like said, short term like a 1000mi, not a big deal. Long term would be a severely shortened engine life.

Joel
 
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